The second part of Jason Berry's gruesomely compelling expose of the sordid life of Maciel Degollado (pictured), founder of the Legionaries of Christ, has been published by NCR (Part 1 is here). It contains more evidence of how Maciel suborned his opponents through lavish funds. What is sad is how close Maciel came to being stopped.
In the 1950s Cardinal Valerio Valeri, prefect for Congregation of Religious, suspended Maciel after receiving letters from a priest at the Legion seminary in Mexico City who had seen Maciel self-inject with drugs and groom boys. "Valeri suspended Maciel and arranged for Carmelite priests to assume control of the Legion house", reports Berry. But the Carmelites could get nothing from the boys, who admitted years later how, out of fear, they had lied to protect Maciel. Valeri did not publicize the suspension, and Maciel began raising money for the Our Lady of Guadelupe Basilica in Rome. In 1959, after the death of Pope Pius XII but before the election of John XXIII, Maciel was reinstated by Cardinal Clemente Micara, vicar of Rome in the interregnum, to whom Maciel had more than 10 years earlier given a huge sum of cash.
Micara, by then the vicar of Rome, signed an order reinstating Maciel — something for which, in the interregnum between popes, he had no authority to do. Canon law puts official duties in abeyance in the interim. What were Valeri and other officials who were offended by Maciel to do? Expend what capital they had with the new pontiff, challenging Micara over a druggy priest with a vice for boys but cash lines to build a basilica? Maciel was redeemed by an illegitimate order from a cardinal to whom he had given $10,000 13 years before, according to a priest with access to Legion files. Micara, who had blessed the cornerstone, wanted infrastructure. Maciel had the money.
Although Berry tells us much that we already knew from his previous investigations -- the women Maciel kept, their children whom he abused -- it is amazing to read how Maciel took two of those children to meet the Pope, in a high-wire gamble typical of those addicted to the adrenalin of the double life.
In 1991, when Raúl was 10 and Norma 4, Maciel took them to the Vatican; they received Communion from Pope John Paul II .... Presenting his children to John Paul suggests a reckless cynicism in Maciel's behavior, gambling with his public image as a priest by showcasing the progeny of his private life, putting both of his lives on simultaneous display.
The key Vatican figure in protecting Maciel in the 1980s and 1990s was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the all-powerful secretary of state under John Paul II and now Dean of the College of Cardinals. The bond between Sodano and Maciel was forged back in the Pinochet years in Chile, where Sodano was nuncio. It was Sodano who persuaded Cardinal Silva to allow the Legion into the country, against the objections from the bishops.
Back to Rome in 1989, Sodano, in preparing to become secretary of state, took English lessons at a Legion center in Dublin, Ireland. He vacationed at a Legion villa in Southern Italy. An honored guest at Legion dinners and banquets, Sodano became Maciel's biggest supporter .... Maciel hired Sodano's nephew, Andrea Sodano, as a building consultant. Pontificial Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum is the name of the complex. But Legionaries overseeing the project complained to Maciel that Andrea Sodano's work was late and poorly done; they were reluctant to pay his invoices. To them, Maciel yelled: "Pay him! You pay him!"
Reading of the powerful ties of money and family between the two men -- Sodano's nephew was employed by Maciel to build the Legion's university in Rome -- it is much easier now to see now what a struggle it must have been for Cardinal Ratzinger to force Maciel to resign in 2004.
Now that the Vatican-mandated investigation into the Legion is over, the report by the five "visitator" bishops will be on the Pope's desk by the end of April, reports Corriere della Sera, which speculates that a commissario -- a Vatican-appointed head -- will be put in charge of the Legion to clear up its mess, who is likely to be a cardinal.
Meanwhile, there is also an obvious cardinal whose head should roll: Sodano's. His resignation would be the best way of repudiating the sordid manner in which Maciel was protected in Rome for so many years.